Zubair al-Muhajir, a senior foreign al-Shabab fighter has defected the Somalia militant group and is now in Mogadishu with the Somali government.
Zubair al-Muhajir originally from Ivory Coast, travelled from London to join the group in 2006. He rose through the ranks and ultimately became a member of al-Shabab’s Shura Council of religious scholars as one of the most senior foreign fighters.
In 2011, al-Muhajir was head of a committee appointed by al-Shabab to mediate a bitter dispute between the late leader Ahmed Abdi Godane and three other commanders – Ibrahim al-Afghani, Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansour and Fuad Mohamed Khalaf Shongole. His mediation efforts were rejected by Godane and the dispute led to the execution of al-Afghani in June 2013. Robow eventually defected while Shongole is still with al-Shabab.
He fell out with the militant group in 2013 when its Amniyat force arrested him and imprisoned him for three years.
In his words, “I defected because the al-Shabab, are lying to the Muslims and to the world. They are claiming to implement the Sharia (Islamic law) which is not true because I know from incidents where they went against the Sharia”
Having defected from al-Shaba, Zubair al-Muhajir is now in Mogadishu with the Somali government which has an open amnesty program for those defecting from al-Shabab on the basis that they renounce violence and the ideology. In his words to the Somali government, “They have to take the issue of al-Shabab seriously, otherwise, they will still kill the innocent people and do it in the name of Sharia”. “They have to take the fight with al-Shabab on the ideology side because this is the side which is boosting al-Shabab. If the people realize that the ideology is wrong with Islamic proof, I think al-Shabab will no longer be there for a long time.”
From Zubair al-Muhajir’s suggestions to the government, it is clear that a large population of the al-Shabab group are acting based on wrong ideological terms which they have been taught or made to believe. Hence, if there is a strategy to re-orientate the large population of the group, it will go a long way to curb their activities and save lives.
Religious education is particularly important in Somalia as these terrorist groups in a bid to impose their own strict version of Islamic law, tend to train their members on totally wrong ideologies. The government needs to train teachers in Islamic ethics and create a syllabus that will produce individuals who are sound, free from insightful ideologies, and moderate students who have Islamic knowledge as well as other subjects.